Over the past weeks, I have been almost every day in telephone contact with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs [Hossein Amirabdollahian], my counterpart, discussing on the stalled JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] negotiations.
We stopped them [the negotiations] in March  for a short pause, and three months later we are still stalled.
So finally, he [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hossein Amirabdollahian] invited [me] to come to Tehran. He asked me to come to Tehran to deblock the situation, to see if it was possible to the deblock the situation. That is why I came yesterday night - and I am leaving right now because you know that next week [will] start the NATO Summit in Madrid - to try to revive the diplomatic path and see what we can do to give a new push for the talks and break the current escalation.
Because you know, the pause in March . Then, came this resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Then, came the Iranian’s decision on the nuclear side. Then, came the sanctions from the United States. We have to stop this escalation. And I am happy to say that after long meetings and discussions with the Foreign Minister [Hossein Amirabdollahian], and also with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council [Ali Shamkhani] - we just finished some minutes ago the last meeting -, we managed to deblock the situation. And in the coming days - and actually in the coming days, I mean, immediately -, we will restart the discussions we [had] stopped for the last three months. And the United States and Iran will talk, not directly but with a facilitation by me and my team as Coordinator [of the JCPOA negotiations].
So that is good. We start again the talks, we deblock the deadlock and let’s start again the discussions.
I had the opportunity to explain to my Iranian counterparts that the JCPOA will allow them to go to full potential in terms of economy certainly, in terms of trade, developing energy resources and many other advantages. We can increase our partnership with the European Union and with our Member States. But for this, the JCPOA has to be fully operational and fully implemented.
So, let's start working again. In a new geopolitical environment, because the aggression of Russia against Ukraine has changed completely the geopolitical environment, and also the energy situation of the world. This is a tectonic change that will last, will have lasting consequences. [It] will require adaptation because, in Europe, we will start a quick race to get rid of the Russian oil and gas. And this will require new sources on one side, and on the other side, an increased development of renewables. Everything will be changed. And I understand, from my Iranian counterparts, that they will go to this meeting with the best of the wills.
We also have the opportunity to raise some urgent bilateral issues from the consular side which are of concern to us, and also about the detention of European citizens here in Iran. There is a certain growing number of cases, we discussed about it and we urged solutions for those cases. But to summarise, the negotiations were stalled - no prospects of restarting - and thanks to these discussions, in the coming days they will start again, with close contacts between the United States and the Iranians.
That is good news, and let's hope that this will bring the JCPOA again on track.
Q. In your briefing, you talked about the situation and how it has changed after Russia [inaudible] Ukraine. How do you think this impacts [inaudible] ? Are you trying to say that the outcome and the consequences will be more harsh and more dangerous if [inaudible] sanctions?
Certainly, the war is changing everything. It is changing the geopolitical context. It is changing the energy context. It does not make the deal more difficult, I do not think it is going to make the deal more difficult. At a certain moment, Russia was very much against the deal because, certainly, Iran will come to the oil market and provide an alternative source of oil. But after the context that the Iranians themselves had with the Russians, Russia has withdrawn any objection to the deal. That is good. Russia is not objecting the deal. They were at the beginning of the year, [but] no longer. No, I do not think the war is making things more difficult, but it is making things more necessary. The world today is much more insecure. This war is going to jeopardise a lot of things. It is creating price increases on energy and food. In many countries, mainly in Africa, this will create social unrest. So, the more supply of oil, the better for the energy prices. In order to fight against price increases, you have to increase the supply. So, the deal would be good from the point of view of crisis stabilisation on energy. It would be good from the point of view of increasing security. It will be good from the point of view of Iran becoming a member of the international community, [being] more active, participating in trade - [on] both sides, exporting oil [and] importing goods -, and more committed to the international security. So, I do not think the war makes it more difficult. It makes it more necessary.
Q. The question is: why now? You mentioned it a lot, three months is not a pause, three months is much more than a pause. Why not last month? Why not before the resolution or before the disconnection of the cameras in Iranian sites? What has changed now? That you are here, and everything is being settled, the negotiations are resuming – that is big news. But what needed to be done before this? Why [is it] that all the sides waited three months for this to happen? What has changed now? What is the new thing that is happening? Can you tell us anything about that?
You know, this is a cumulative process. First, you stop because the delegations have to go back home in order to get guidance from the authorities. Then, the guidance is being delayed. And then certainly, the war in Ukraine has put, [for] all of us, the attention on someone else. The United States and the Europeans, we were, in March [and] April , very much concentrated on what was happening in Ukraine. And then came this resolution which was a warning of the international community. The resolution was taken two or three weeks ago. It was a quick warning. And then, the typical process of escalation: “I do not like what you are doing, so I do something from my side, and then I do something from my side because they do not like what you do”. And I took stock of the situation, and I got in touch with my Iranian counterpart - and with my American counterpart also - saying “Look, if we continue like this, the game is over”. If we let the cameras to be switched off for one or two more weeks, then the International Atomic Energy [Agency] will lose control of what is happening and we will not be able to sit again at the table. So, this is an in-extremis act from my side. And I do not want the deal to derail, definitely. And my Iranian counterpart said: “If you want to discuss, [I am] ready to receive you and see what we can do. We cannot solve it by phone”. That is why, I jumped [to come here] for 24 hours. I could have done it before the resolution, but the sense of urgency was still not there. Now it was, certainly. And I am very happy to have done this jump to Tehran for 24 hours because now, from immediately after this meeting, the negotiations will restart.
Q. Both Iranian and even US officials say that they have a strong will in reaching a deal. But my question is: How do you envision the future of the JPOA? How far is the final point in the agreement?
How far is the final point? Do you mean, the final agreement? I cannot tell you a precise date. Let's see what will happen next week. I have to test the temperature of the next session of discussion. I cannot predict. I am activist by nature. I think that if you want something, you have to push for it. We are pushing for it. I appreciated [the] good will from [the] Iranian side. There is also good will from the American side. They were very happy that I came here. But I still do not know if both will be able to overcome their respective political difficulties. Because now we are talking about political difficulties. On the economic and nuclear side, I think the agreement is there. But at the end, it is also political consideration from both sides, and I cannot foresee when and how they would be overcome.